The Carthage College Wind Orchestra — one of the oldest college bands in the United States — was established as a brass band in 1873 under the leadership of Prof. J. M. Helfrich. From its humble beginnings as a six-piece brass ensemble, the group has grown in size and stature to now include three concert ensembles, Wind Orchestra, Concert Band, and the chamber winds group AMATI.
Distinguished conductors to lead the band were J.Q.A. Kimmell, Elmer Hanke, Merrill Brown, Stanley DeRusha, Woodrow Hodges, and Kenneth Winkle. The band has a long and honored history of service to Carthage College and the artistic life of the communities of Kenosha, Wis., and Carthage, Ill.
The Carthage band claims as one of its most outstanding alumni the composer David Uber, who maintains a repository of his music in Hedberg Library. A series of important events celebrated the 130th anniversary of the band in 2003. These included the band’s first tour to Japan, as well as a Midwestern tour, the premiere of a commissioned work (“Palimpsest” by Keith Carpenter), and the band’s first CD.
Another CD, “Winds a la Carte,” was released in 2007, followed by “Think on These Things” in 2010 and “Sacred Space and Sound” in 2011. Several commissions have been undertaken in the past twenty years, as well as the construction of two accompaniments for the silent films “Metropolis” and “The General.”
The 140th Anniversary was celebrated throughout 2013-14 with many featured events, beginning with an outdoor performance of music drawn from the 1873-1874 programs, the Wind Orchestra’s fourth trip to Japan, and concluding with the May Anniversary Concert that featured the premiere of Liquid Compass by Alex Shapiro.
Performances of the Wind Orchestra have been heard at the 2009 and 2014 Conferences of the Wisconsin Music Educators, and the 2011 Convention of the National Band Association’s Wisconsin Chapter.